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Nine Commandments of Regatta Etiquette

Published on December 5th, 2021

The SailZing team thought about what it takes to have a good regatta experience and came up with nine issues to consider:

What is regatta etiquette in sailing? An internet search might lead you to think it’s the fancy stuff – proper dress in the clubhouse, flag traditions, colors. Or it might imply following the racing rules. To others it might mean spectator boat and coach behavior on the water.

We were more interested in how the competitors conduct themselves throughout the regatta – both on and off the water. This led us to broaden the concept of regatta etiquette in the spirit of the Bible’s ten commandments. We couldn’t come up with ten, so you’ll have to settle for nine.

Our commandments were not handed down on stone tablets. The internet and our sailing library had little to say. Instead, we used our own experience about behaviors that make regattas a positive experience for everyone. Perhaps you’ll see a relationship between these and the “real” ten commandments.

1. Say thanks
The organizers have worked hard and probably experienced a degree of stress and negativity. Your genuine, personal show of appreciation shows them their work was meaningful.

2. Be a net giver
Some sailors come to the regatta unprepared and are constantly asking for help, spare parts, etc. Others don’t require much assistance but stick to themselves and don’t share much. It’s much better to engage with others, accepting help when needed, but giving more than you receive.

3. Be positive, or at least silent
Don’t judge yourself or others in a negative light. You may be unhappy with how you sailed, how the race was run, or what someone else did that affected you, but don’t wear that on your sleeve – it doesn’t help anyone.

4. Don’t push rules and tactics when not necessary
Rules and tactics are essential to sailing, but so is the principle of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jonathan McKee writes about this in The Corinthian Conundrum in Sailing World.

5. Follow instructions
Registration, launching/retrieval, traffic/parking are major challenges at any large regattas. If the regatta organizers have specified a plan, don’t try to gain an advantage by skirting it.

6. Don’t cut
Everyone wants to launch and retrieve their boats quickly. Ideally, boats will get pulled out in roughly the order they reached the dock. You won’t make a lot of friends if you sail into an open spot ahead of other sailors already docked.

7. Respect the property
Don’t litter. Clean up after yourself. If you damage something, fix it or offer to help. If you’re unsure about using club property, ask first.

8. Avoid contact with other boats at the dock
Gelcoat is not known for its resilience. Don’t let your boat bang around at the dock.

9. Honor your fellow competitors
OK, so you didn’t win a trophy. Why not stay for the presentation to honor those that did? If you must leave, congratulate them and other close competitors personally.

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